DRIVING Mr Five to the dental clinic this week, one week after the "feed the kids" bill was voted down in Parliament, I thought of families struggling on low incomes.
I have a car - with petrol - and flexible employment, so taking 45 minutes off work to pick up my son from school, a quick trip direct to the dental clinic, and back to school, was hassle-free.
But what if you don't have a car and need to connect with the bus, or if a bonus car trip across town is real pressure on your weekly allowance for petrol, or if your employment is insecure and fitting in a dental appointment just doesn't make the priority list because you can't afford to take time off work?
The "feed the kids" bill, inherited by the Greens co-leader Metiria Turei from Hone Harawira, was a proposal to feed breakfast and lunch to kids at decile one and two schools as hungry students don't learn as well as otherwise.
To me, an avowed Green supporter, it's a no-brainer. Children living in poverty already have a range of disadvantages that make life an uneven playing field, and investing in education early on is a proven leveller.
Of course, the debate drew out the beneficiary-bashers who blame the parents, as if it's easy to live on a tiny income. Yes, there are shoddy parents who make bad choices - at all income brackets - but kids who go to school without lunch should not be the ones to wear the consequences in a relatively rich country like New Zealand.
One of my friends confessed to me she voted Green at the last election for the first time, solely on their position on children in poverty. It was - and still is - the most important issue for her.
It's pretty petty-minded to criticise families attempting to survive on tight incomes when it's much easier to sympathise as we all face unexpected costs. The advice of "put a little aside" only goes so far - it's actually really hard to balance a budget when the incoming has no fat in it to cover the basic bonus outgoings like a doctor's bill, or an extra hungry teenager, or a new battery for a car, or petrol to get to the dental clinic.
And the consequences of ditching the dental check-up are heart-breaking for some kids - rotten teeth in primary school children is just so wrong. Too much sugar in cheap fizzy drink undoubtedly plays a huge role in this, but limited access to dental care must add up.
My son had a bit of decay developing in a top left molar at our last visit so we got some fluoride paste on the tooth and instructions to always start brushing with that tooth so it got a good dose of toothpaste. Six months later, no further decay, so we might be lucky he remains filling-less a bit longer.
I am a pro-fluoride Green member, as many of us are. There is a growing number of science-based Green Party members, and I would love to see fluoride reinstated to the New Plymouth water supply. Apparently dental problems have surged in children since it was removed in 2011.
I'd also love to see Whanganui people benefit from fluoride in the water supply. I remember seeing a gorgeous wee girl, maybe 4-years-old, join my children when playing at Kowhai Park one day - then she smiled and all I saw was a row of brown stumps in her mouth where her white baby teeth should have been.
Yes, there are some below-average parents out there, those providing sugary drinks in baby bottles the top of the list, but we know it takes a village to raise a child and acting together to support those in need is not only the right thing to do, it's also sensible economically in the long-run.
Apparently Benjamin Franklin was the first to say: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." It still rings true today.
Nicola Young has worked in the government and private sectors in Australia and NZ, and now works from home in Taranaki for a global consultancy. Educated at Wanganui Girls' College, she has a science degree and is the mother of two boys. These views are her own.